In politics, if you strike a deal that makes everyone mad, then you’ve probably done a good job. By that yardstick, I think that Will Brantley and I hit it out of the park here.
There are two types of people in the world: Those, like me, who like to shoot and hunt with the 6.5 Creedmoor and other well-designed modern cartridges. And those, like Brantley, who’d as soon endure a week’s worth of sensitivity training as admit to using one of these hyper-trendy ballistic newcomers. The one thing both sides agree on is that we’re all stubborn, opinionated cranks when it comes to such matters. But hunters are also a forgiving lot, and so if you find yourself needing to come up with a last-minute gift for someone who either loves or hates the 6.5 Creedmoor, we put together this little guide. —J.B.S.
Rifles to Give as Holiday Gifts
Last time I checked, we’re still allowed to give each other guns for Christmas in the U.S. of A., so if there’s someone you love who deserves a fun toy, consider one of these. And if you’ve gotten through the last year, you probably deserve one too. —J.B.S.
Springfield Armory Waypoint 2020
Life’s too short to shoot ugly guns. The same goes for rifles with piss-poor accuracy. This freshly minted offering from Springfield Armory is the company’s first foray into the bolt-gun hunting market and they got it right. I spent the fall shooting and hunting with mine and it is a tack-driving, deer-killing SOB. It can be had with either a steel or carbon-fiber barrel and a stock that is fixed or with an adjustable cheekpiece. My favorite configuration is the carbon-fiber barrel with the fixed stock. It’s well balanced, lightweight, and will take down deer at any reasonable distance. Mine’s in 6.5 PRC, but it can be had in 6.5 Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor, and .308 Win. if you prefer. —J.B.S.
Thompson Center Compass II
This sub-$400 rifle might be the best-shooting centerfire in my safe. It comes from the factory with a 1 MOA guarantee and a lifetime warranty. Granted, this gun won’t win any beauty pageants, but I took mine to Wyoming and shot one of my best pronghorn bucks ever with it, plus a pile of prairie dogs. What caliber is it? Don’t you worry about it, since the Compass II is available in the good stuff like .308, .30/06, and .300 Win Mag. —W.B.
Hunting Ammo Gift Ideas for Hunters
Not that you can actually find any ammunition on shelves right now, but if you could, we’d argue about it, since good old-fashioned class warfare applies to your favorite box of 20 as much as anything else. —W.B.
Nosler Trophy Grade Long Range 129-grain 6.5 Creedmoor
While we spend a lot of time ballyhooing the accuracy of today’s hunting rifles, it’s the ammo that actually gets the job done. Advances in bullet design have created a category of accurate, lethal projectiles and one of the best examples of that for 6.5 fans is Nosler’s 129-grain AccuBond Long Range. The boat-tail profile, polymer tip, and geometry of the ogive make it accurate, while the bonded construction and tapered jacket help it expand reliably while retaining weight for top-notch terminal performance. It’s an accurate killer. —J.B.S.
Winchester Super X Power Point 180-Grain .30-06
The first deer rifle I ever owned was a Ruger Model 77 Mark 2 .30/06 with the skeletonized “Zytel” stock—a setup apparently designed to channel the entire force of the rifle’s recoil into the shooter’s jaw and collar bone. Mine is particularly good at it with the 180-grain bullets that it has always preferred, and it’s still my go-to deer rifle. Of all the ammo I’ve tried through it—and there’s been a bunch of premium stuff—it shoots the classic Super X Power Point as well as anything. Those soft-point bullets, cheap and humble though they are, work exceptionally well on whitetails, and I once watched my dad drop a bull elk with one, too. —W.B.
Scope Suggestions for Rifles Chambered in 6.5 CM
I’ll confess that some reticles and scopes are overly complicated, and that a lot of hunters just aren’t interested in putting in the time to master the ins and outs of holdover reticles and dialing turrets. But for sportsmen willing to look beyond basic duplex crosshairs, there’s an amazing world of capable scopes for the choosing. —J.B.S.
Nightforce NX8 2.5-20 F1
The Nightforce NX8 2.5-20 F1 scope. Nightforce
Shooting a traditional duplex reticle is as exciting as peddling a single-speed cruiser to and from the grocery store. And that’s a fine choice for many hunters. But if you want to step it up and get the most out of your accurate rifle, an optic like this new Nightforce is the way to go. The magnification range on this scope covers everything you’ll need—from close shots in cover to stretching it out if and when needed. The first-focal plane design lets the shooter take maximum advantage of the reference marks in the reticle. Yes, it’ll take practice to learn to use it under pressure, but this scope is a step above the traditional hunting optic. ($1,950; amazon.com) —J.B.S.
Leupold VX3i 3-10×40 CDS
The Leupold VX3i 3-10×40 CDS Leupold
Leupold makes the best hunting scope out there for the money, and the VX3i 3.5-10×40 CDS ZL is the one I have on my .30/06. It’s proof that 3-10 is enough magnification to hunt anything, and that an inch around is still plenty of tube. It weighs 13 ounces, doesn’t require a single battery, and has a simple Duplex reticle. There are cheaper Leupold scopes available, but this one comes with the CDS turret system, and you should splurge a bit for that. —W.B.
These Two Hunting Bullets Make Great Holiday Gifts
Getting close to critters is what I enjoy above all else, no matter what I’m hunting. I appreciate a good bullet that does the job, but I’m most interested in bullets that address a need. For me, 400-yard performance has rarely been a need—even on Western critters. But turning a lightweight, pistol-caliber lever gun into a legitimate deer rifle so that I can use it in a shotgun state—or hand it to my 6-year-old to shoot his first deer? Problem(s) solved. —W.B.
Federal Terminal Ascent 130-grain 6.5mm
This bullet has generated its share of buzz, and for good reason. It’s a smart example of the latest generation of hunting bullets. It’s accurate and the jacket and core are bonded to help ensure good penetration and weight retention. It’s also designed to mushroom reliably at lower impact velocities (i.e. longer distances). You can use this with confidence on any animal short of dangerous game. —J.B.S.
Federal Hammer Down 170-Grain .357 Magnum
I haven’t seen long-range message boards light up with conversations about the ballistic coefficient of this bullet. But just this fall, I have seen it drop a big pronghorn buck and several deer flat on their white asses at ranges of 40 to 90 yards. A .357 lever gun is legal to use on whitetails just about everywhere, since most traditional slug-gun states also allow straight-wall pistol cartridges, and the mild report and lack of recoil could impress even the daintiest 6.5 shooter. My 6-year-old killed two of those deer mentioned above, and he handles it well. —W.B.
Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Hunting Outerwear
One of my hunting buddies here in Montana told me there’s no such thing as bad weather…just bad clothing. I can attest that I’ve been on many hunts in frigid remote areas where the only thing that kept me alive was the gear I was wearing. So this isn’t the place to go cheap. —J.B.S.
Stone Glacier De Havilland Jacket
The De Havilland Jacket from Stone Glacier. Stone Glacier
Camo patterns are so 2018. Solids are back and that’s what the fashion-forward Creed-shooting hunter is sporting these days. In all seriousness, camo is one of those things we tend to overthink for big game, and a solid neutral fabric will work just as well as your favorite stick-and-leaf pattern. Don’t believe me? Look at any picture of a deer hunter before the 1980s. —J.B.S.
Banded Northwind Nano PrimaLoft Jacket
The Banded Northwind Nano PrimaLoft Jacket. Banded
See that guy standing in the corner, wearing a faded camo coat to his brother’s third wedding reception? Know what he’d like, now that he’s three beers in and Copperhead Road is playing? For a “fashion-forward” hunter to tell him his camouflage is stupid, and, by God, so is his .30/06. Hell, I’d like that too, just to watch. Meanwhile, this coat right here will keep you warm all deer season, and it’s available in the classics—Realtree and Mossy Oak—so your affiliation will never be questioned. —W.B.
Health and Beauty Gift Ideas for Hunters (Seriously)
The practical .30/06 shooter wouldn’t dare waste money on a personal care product if he’s already got a suitable substitute on hand. There is, after all, a fine line between fragrance and cover scent. —W.B.
Nose Jammer Personal Care Products
Give your loved ones this personal-care 4 pack this holiday season. Nose Jammer
If you want to know how fine that line really is, Nose Jammer is available in an aerosol spray can (I bring one to the woods with me and use it often), but if you simply can’t make it through the day without that intoxicating baked-goods-and-noxious-chemical smell, Nose Jammer sells a fine bar of soap, bottle of shampoo, and deodorant too. I’ve only used it in quarantine, but I’m excited to see how it performs in public. ($35; amazon.com) —W.B.
Viking Revolution Beard Oil
Do you even oil your 6.5 beard, bro? Viking Revolution
If we’re going to play up the 6.5 Creed stereotype, we might as well go all in. You can see it now—a beautiful buck on the ground, tag punched. All that’s left is to get that juicy shot for the ‘gram. You don’t want to give up any likes because your beard lacked a certain luster. And though I’ve never used beard oil, if I were to, I’d want it to have a manly (and unpretentious) name like Viking Revolution. —J.B.S.
Gift Ideas for Spirits to Drink at Hunting Camp
This is what I’m talking about. I’m trying to celebrate a successful hunt with something that’s equal to the moment, and Brantley is fixin’ to guzzle the biggest container of swill he can get his hands on. Nonetheless, in the spirit of deer-camp camaraderie, I’ll hoist my glass and sip my liquor while he takes a straw to his Costco-sized bottle. —J.B.S.
W. L. Weller’s Special Reserve Bourbon
This is the real deal. It’s got the deep color. The right amount of fire. A smooth finish. And it’s 90 proof. It tastes great neat, poured over a large cube of ice, or as the foundation to the best Old Fashioned you’ve ever had. It can be as elusive as a 150-inch deer, so you might have to hunt around to find it—but man is it worth it. —J.B.S.
Early Times 1.75L
Early Time doesn’t quite check all the boxes to qualify as authentic bourbon, and so it’s labeled as “Kentucky Whiskey.” I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the best 80-proof brown liquor out there, but it does come in one of the biggest bottles—and that’s not nothing. The 1.75-liter “family jug” will last you through a long weekend at deer camp, and if doesn’t, you have a problem. —W.B.
The Best Stocking Stuffers for Hunters
This is a bonus category to make your hunting buddy’s Christmas morning that much brighter. And a final chance to get in another good dig. —J.B.S.
Recoil Pad and Ibuprofen
Take pity on your magnum-shooting friend. He doesn’t buy into all this trendy nonsense about “shot placement” and rifles that are “comfortable” to shoot. No, every doe he culls is going to be on the receiving end of a 180-grain slug from his .300 Win. Mag. Of course, the deer aren’t the only ones taking a beating. His shoulder is bruised, he’s got a 24/7 headache, and he flinches like an abused puppy with every pull of the trigger. While you can’t cure stupid, you can help ease the sting with a Pachmayr Decelerator Slip-On Recoil Pad—and a bottle of ibuprofen. —J.B.S.
Tracking Dog Gift Certificate
The dozen or so animals I’ve seen killed with the 6.5 CM didn’t take more than a few steps before tipping over dead but had they run off, I’d have expected shitty blood trails. Some of my friends just can’t shut the f___ up about sectional densities, and for them, a tracking dog gift certificate seems appropriate. Sooner or later, this bowhunter says, they’ll need it. —W.B.